Saturday, June 15, 2013

Syria is Iran's Stalingrad

by Gary C. Gambill

The growing infusion of Iranian-backed Lebanese and Iraqi Shiite fighters into the Syrian civil war is causing some veteran pundits to panic. Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, warns that "Iran is beating the U.S. in Syria." Former Bush administration deputy national security adviser Elliot Abrams sees "a humiliating defeat of the United States at the hands of Iran."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Setting aside the matter of how Washington can be losing a war it is not fighting, the claim that Iran is winning is dead wrong. The Islamic Republic's headlong intervention in Syria is akin to Nazi Germany's surge of military forces into the Battle of Stalingrad in the fall of 1942 – an operationally competent, strategic blunder of epic proportions.

To be sure, the influx of thousands of foreign (mostly non-Iranian) Shiite fighters into Syria in recent months has enabled pro-regime forces to regain some ground in the Damascus suburbs and a belt of territory linking the capital to Homs and the coast. The town of Qusayr, critical to both rebel and regime supply lines into Lebanon, fell on June 5.

That's a shame, but the Iranian surge won't prevent the overwhelmingly Sunni Arab rebels from eventually prevailing on the battlefield. Sunni Arabs have a 5-to-1 demographic edge over the minority Alawites who comprise most uniformed and paramilitary pro-regime combatants, and a 2-to-1 advantage over all of Syria's ethno-sectarian minorities combined. The rebels are strongly supported by the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims worldwide who are Sunnis, and their four principal sponsors – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan – have a GDP well over twice that of Iran. Russia continues to do business with the regime, but it won't intervene decisively enough to change the math.

Like the vaunted German Wehrmacht in the Stalingrad kessel, Iran's expeditionary forces have been thrown into a tactical military environment for which they are woefully unprepared. Although Hezbollah wrote the book on guerrilla warfare against conventional militaries, it has little experience fighting battle-hardened insurgents on unfamiliar terrain – and it shows. At least 141 Hezbollah fighters were killed in the span of just one month fighting in the battle for Qusayr, many of them elite commandos who cannot easily be replaced.

Iran's mobilization of Lebanese and Iraqi Shiites to fight for their distant theological cousins in Syria is unlikely to keep pace with such losses, or with the increased influx of foreign Sunni Islamists sure to come in reaction to it. In the wake of Nasrallah's May 25 declaration to his Shiite followers that the Syrian war is "our battle," the Qatar-based spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, issued a fatwa calling on all Muslims with military training to fight in Syria (something he never did with respect to Israel) and characterizing the conflict as a worldwide struggle between "100 million Shiites" and "1.7 billion [Sunni] Muslims."

Of course, divisions among both the rebels and their external sponsors have greatly slowed the march to Damascus. Because Syrian President Bashar Assad's ultimate defeat is a foregone conclusion, all of the major players (the United States included) are focused more on bolstering their equity within the eventually-to-be-victorious rebel camp than on hastening its advance. But the eventual aggregation and coordination of sufficient rebel manpower and resources to decisively defeat pro-regime forces (first in Damascus, later in the rest of Syria) is inevitable so long as none of the players bow out or switch sides.

Iran's only hope of avoiding this path is to make the humanitarian cost of a decisive rebel military victory so horrific that the international community will step in and force the rebels to accept a Lebanon-style "no victor, no vanquished" political compromise. This would leave pro-regime forces intact and well poised to subvert the post-war transition, much as Hezbollah's militia survived and thrived following the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

But this scenario necessitates a rebel leadership willing to accept, and united enough to enforce, a ceasefire that leaves pro-regime forces in control of large swathes of the country during the transition process. With Jabhat al-Nusra and other militant jihadist groups in Syria continuing to grow in strength, neither condition will obtain for the foreseeable future.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could have cut his losses early on by allowing the Assad regime to die a natural death and building bridges with its successor. Such an accommodation would have greatly impaired Iran's ability to transport heavy weapons to Hezbollah, but its Lebanese proxy would still have remained Israel's deadliest security threat for years to come. Hamas, which effectively severed its alliance with Tehran as a result of the Syria conflict, would probably have kept at least one foot in the Iranian axis. Khamenei likely declined to take this path for the same reason that Hitler refused to disengage from a no-win military confrontation in Stalingrad – a deeply metaphysical confidence in ultimate victory.

This delusion will cost him a great deal more than Syria. Even before the surge, Iran's massive infusions of cash into Syria (12.6 billion dollars, according to one estimate) and stepped up training of pro-Assad forces had greatly inflamed animosity toward the Islamic Republic and its proxies throughout the Arab-Islamic world. After years of successfully mobilizing Arabs against Israel (as recently as 2008, polling still showed Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah to be the Arab world's most popular public figure), Tehran has managed to incite even greater hostility to itself in a fraction of the time. A recent survey by James Zogby shows that Iran's favorability ratings have fallen to an all-time low in majority Sunni countries (dropping from 85 percent to 15 percent in Saudi Arabia between 2006 and 2012, for example). Syria, he writes, has become the "nail in the coffin" of Iran's standing in the region. The inflamed sectarianism wrought by Iran, according to a detailed study by Geneive Abdo of the Brookings Institution, is likely to supersede the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "as the central mobilizing factor for Arab political life."

In addition to sabotaging its regional hegemonic ambitions, intervention in Syria may also have dire domestic political consequences for the Islamic Republic. The regime's involvement in a chronic sectarian conflict is sure to steadily alienate its own restive Sunni minority, while the strain on its sanctions-riddled economy will only get worse. Most importantly, the ignominious collapse of its claim to pan-Islamic leadership erodes one of the main pillars of its legitimacy in the eyes of Shiites. There are no silver linings.

While Abrams insists that the United States should be working to "deter" Iran "from sending more fighters to help save Assad," he's got it all wrong. The Obama administration should copy the late Soviet General Georgy Zhukov and focus not on combating the foolhardy Iranian surge, but on exploiting the strategic and political flanks left exposed by it.

Gary C. Gambill is a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy, The National Interest, and The National Post. Formerly editor of Middle East Intelligence Bulletin and Mideast Monitor, Gambill is an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.


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National Defense vs. the Ideology of Jihad

by Clare M. Lopez

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the deliberate blinding of our homeland security defense capabilities, perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood in close cooperation with the witting, willing assistance of our own national security agency leadership , is propelling the U.S. towards catastrophe.

Counterterrorism expert Patrick Poole has compiled a meticulously-documented record of disastrous U.S. policy behavior that is as chilling as it is comprehensive. In "Blind Terror: The U.S. Government's Muslim Outreach Efforts and the Impact on U.S. Middle East Policy," published 4 June 2013 in the MERIA Journal, Poole describes the aggressive efforts of successive U.S. administrations dating back at least to the Clinton years to forge conciliatory relationships with American Muslim individuals and groups that are legally, openly on record as known supporters of jihadi terrorism and Islamic shariah law.

While Poole's superb analysis focuses on the catastrophic results of such policies for U.S. national security and that of our regional friends and allies – policies still unfolding across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region -- an equally catastrophic potential attends to these policies domestically, in the homeland. The methodical blinding of the intelligence community, its seventeen aggregated agencies, and security and law enforcement units across the country is the unavoidable result of this kind of "outreach" to jihadists, who are determined to outlaw consideration of Islamic ideology as a motivating factor for terror attacks. At some point, if allowed to continue, such blinding must necessarily result in the effective neutralization of these front line defenses such that they are incapable of responding in a timely manner to prevent high-casualty terrorist attacks.

U.S. capitulation to the forces of Islamic jihad and shariah was set, perhaps irrevocably, by President George W. Bush in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Speaking at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. on September 12, 2001, where he was flanked by some of the top Muslim Brotherhood representatives in the country, Bush declared: "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace".

But as Poole's careful research chronicles, during the Obama administration, the Muslim Brotherhood's decades-long infiltration campaign of targeting senior policy-making levels of the U.S. government not only accelerated, but arguably reached critical mass. In a stunning sequence of events beginning in late 2011, and at the urging of identifiable affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood, all U.S. government training curriculum that explained the irrefragable connection between Islamic doctrine, law, and scripture and Islamic terrorism was literally purged of such content. Additionally, subject matter experts identified as "enemies" by the administration's Muslim advisors henceforth were summarily banned from providing truthful training about Islam to U.S. government employees or for U.S. government-funded classes. At the same time, a critical Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) policy based on the so-called "Touchstone" document went into effect that says mere membership in a violent (that is, terrorist) organization that also demonstrates "legitimate (advocacy)…objectives" should not result in a conclusion that members endorse the "illicit objective(s)" of that organization. The Touchstone policy clearly was meant to place the administration's Muslim Brotherhood advisors beyond the reach of criticism, even when such criticism is based on public court records such as the Holy Land Foundation HAMAS terror funding trial documents and unindicted co-conspirators list. Touchstone effectively immunizes these advisors, these agents of influence for a power openly hostile to this country, Constitution, and society, from the legal and security scrutiny and suspicion to which they otherwise rightly would be subject.

The inescapable effect of this policy is to permit a growing vulnerability to terrorist attack in the American homeland. And not just permit: the Touchstone policy literally ensures circumstances that make such attacks inevitable. National, regional, and local security forces that are not permitted to know the enemy, or understand what motivates that enemy to move from hostile belief to terrorist action, have a diminished chance to pre-empt Islamic terror attacks and are relegated to reliance on hit-or-miss sting and surveillance operations -- or post-attack law enforcement investigations in the aftermath of another Boston Marathon bombing. To the extent that the insinuation of the Touchstone policy into U.S. national security strategy was the calculated effort of this country's jihadist enemies -- undetected by those responsible for U.S. counterintelligence -- the safety and security of American citizens slip inescapably under the threat of more attacks.

The Boston attack provides a good case study for the way in which the absence of a national strategy to focus security attention on identified jihadists who are still in the pre-attack phase of their mission leaves us defenseless to pre-empt plots like this one. Russian intelligence officers warned the FBI explicitly as early as 2011 about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two brothers who killed and maimed hundreds in the 15 April 2013 attack with pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. What the Russians told the FBI was that Tamerlan was becoming "more devout" and a "strong believer" as a Muslim. For the Russians, who have been holding off the forces of Islamic jihad at the Caucasus isthmus for more than 1,000 years, this information was self-explanatory: the message they sought to convey to the FBI was that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was on the pathway to physical, violent jihad. Additionally, as the Russian security services learned from their 2011 interrogation of William Plotnikov, a Canadian citizen and Russian native, he and Tsarnaev were using the online website of a Saudi-based jihadist front organization as a communication hub. The World Association of Muslim Youth (WAMY) is the youth recruitment arm of the international Wahhabi movement, the Vice Chairman of which is Abdullah Omar Nasseef, a senior Saudi figure, Muslim Brotherhood leader, and founder of the Rabita Trust (an al-Qa'eda financial institution) who has been the decades-long sponsor of the Abedin family. Huma Abedin served as an aide to Hillary Clinton from the mid-1990s, and ultimately as Deputy Chief of Staff to Clinton from 2009-2012 when she was Secretary of State.

As Representative Peter King (NY-R) explained with no small measure of frustration to FOX News morning anchor Martha McCallum on June 13, 2013, however, simply knowing that someone is ideologically on a pathway to jihad and is associating with known jihadis (even those like Nasseef who personally managed a financial institution that funded al-Qa'eda), is insufficient in today's security climate to trigger focused scrutiny. In the Huma Abedin case, it apparently was insufficient even to warrant a closer background check at the Department of State (as so presciently requested by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN-R) and her four House of Representatives colleagues in the summer of 2012). It will never be known if an Inspector General's look at Huma Abedin and her lifelong association with Nasseef at that time might have led to a better understanding of Nasseef's central role at the jihadist nexus of al-Qa'eda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Saudi royal family, and thereby sensitized the FBI as to why use of the WAMY website by budding jihadis such as Tsarnaev should be cause for intensified security attention.

Whatever the factual basis of National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Keith Alexander's claim to Congress that NSA's massive data collection program has saved American lives by disrupting "dozens" of potential terrorist attacks, unfortunately, the Boston Marathon attack demonstrated institutional paralysis due to inability to recognize the threat of Islamic jihad and do something about it before it was too late. The four killed and hundreds injured in Boston join the fourteen lives taken and dozens more changed forever by self-proclaimed "Soldier of Allah," Maj. Nidal Hasan, at Ft. Hood, Texas in 2009. In Hasan's case, too, the carnage must be attributed to FBI failure to act on clear Indicators and Warnings (I & W) that this jihadi was on track to actualize his Islamic faith in a violent attack. Over the course of seven months, between December 2008 and June 2009, the FBI racked up an appalling display of disregard for a pattern of email communications which its investigators knew Hasan was engaging in with al-Qa'eda operative Anwar al-Awlaki. And that communication took place years after Maj. Hasan had begun showing his Power Point presentation on "The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military" while he was a senior-year psychology resident at Walter Reed Hospital.

However many acts of terror may have been prevented, the fact remains that these hundreds of victims at Ft. Hood and in Boston are the first to fall to Islamic jihad on American soil since September 11, 2001. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the deliberate blinding of our homeland security defense capabilities, perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood in close cooperation with the witting, willing assistance of our own national security agency leadership, is propelling the U.S. towards catastrophe. More attacks will come, perhaps already are in some phase of planning -- but unless we restore the curriculum and trainers that can educate our homeland security professionals about the doctrine, law, and scriptures of Islamic jihad and how this belief system inspires would-be terrorists, there will be no reliable way consistently to identify and pursue them prior to some new atrocity.

Especially in an era when the Islamic doctrine of fard 'ayn (individual jihad) is popularized among Muslim youth in slick, online publications such as al-Qa'eda's Inspire magazine, the "Lone Mujahid Pocketbook" from AQAP [al-Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula], or the new "Azan" magazine, with a look and content similar to that of Inspire, America's homeland security team faces a steep challenge to make informed judgments about which individuals from among countless "wannabe" jihadis engaging in free speech will take the next step, as did Maj. Nidal Hasan and the Tsarnaev brothers, to obey the Islamic injunctions to jihad streaming from clerics and mosques and websites. Clearly, the first step is to acknowledge and understand the provenance as well as the power of those calls to "Join the Caravan" (in the words of Abdullah Azzam, sometimes called the 'godfather' of al-Qa'eda).

But the mosques and the fiery sermons of the clerics who preach in them during Friday prayers have been off-limits to the FBI since October 2011, the same month the Department of Justice formally capitulated to demands from the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters in the Muslim community to review "all trainers and training materials at government agencies….[p]urge all federal government training materials of biased materials…Implement a mandatory re-training program for FBI agents, U.S. Army officers…who have been subjected to biased training…Ensure that personnel reviews are conducted and all trainers and other government employees who promoted biased trainers and training materials are effectively disciplined…" Federal officials willing to abrogate their oaths to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic dutifully carried out the Great Purge that followed in accordance with the Brotherhood's "Strategic Plan for North America," which most of them probably had never read and would not have been permitted to use in defense of the nation even if they had.

So, what would happen if the country's homeland security apparatus were, in fact judged by the enemy to be incapable of discovering or stopping a new wave of jihadist attacks, some of which might be of the 'lone mujahid' variety? Would the country collapse, demoralized and terrorized? Would U.S. leadership scurry once again to the nearest Islamic Center to declare Islam a religion of peace and promise to withdraw every last vestige of American influence and power from 'Muslim lands'? Would the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) declare the establishment of the new caliphate? Would al-Qa'eda have achieved fulfillment of the "Fifth Phase" (out of seven) in its quest for that caliphate, scheduled for the 2013-2016 timeframe, when "Western influence in the Islamic world will be so reduced and Israel weakened so much, that resistance will not be feared"?

Or would the American people rise up in outrage, determined to resist the jihadist onslaught, as they did in the days and weeks and months after 9/11? Many in this country and around the world surely look to Americans as "the last, best hope of man on earth" in the words of President Ronald Reagan; but to fulfill that destiny, we must reclaim our common sense, our courage, and our will to survive as an exceptional people. This begins with identifying the enemy that seeks our destruction -- the forces of Islamic jihad and shariah -- and finding a way to pre-empt that enemy in the Information Battlespace, before an ideology openly committed to the destruction of "the Western civilization from within" (in the words of the Muslim Brotherhood) has any more chances to explode to shouts of "Allahu Akbar" ["Allah is Greater"] in gunfire and pressure cookers on American soil.

The hardest part of this challenge will be defining the ideology and proponents of Islamic jihad and political supremacism as a national security threat, while preserving the rights of every believer to devotion, prayer, worship, dietary observances, pilgrimage, and proselytizing that are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It will require a mental shift that separates protected activities of the faithful from other activities, potentially of those same faithful, that are antithetical to the U.S. legal system that derives from our Constitution. Islam and Islamic shariah law together is a holistic system, a "way of life." Political and religious elements are inextricably combined in Islam in a way unacceptable to Western-style democratic systems. To battle the supremacism of Islamic conquest, therefore, means defining a separation in national security strategy that does not exist in Islam itself. Those Muslims who wage stealthy, violent campaigns or violent jihad in obedience to Islam, or who define themselves as loyal to a hostile foreign power, must be designated formally as such and countered with all the power of the American government and society. Those Muslims who limit their activities to those enshrined in the First Amendment must continue to enjoy all the legal protections to which they are entitled.

Only when we achieve this separation, in the way that communist ideology was outlawed (but Orthodox Christianity and Slavic culture were not) during the Cold War, will our national security strategy return to some semblance of coherence, and our homeland security team be provided the tools it needs to know and defeat the enemy.

Clare M. Lopez


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Opinion: What is “Islamic” statehood?

by Sherif Ayoub

The resurgence of Islamic thought in the 20th century has served as a call to action by some Muslim leaders, demanding the adherents of the religion, such as myself, work together to supplant the Western-dominated models of statehood in Muslim countries. In fact, it could be argued that the root of the most organized opposition movements in the last century in these countries has been the aspiration for social transformation corresponding to Islamic jurisprudence, rather than the liberal ideals promoted in the West.

However, beyond the euphoria of latest successes of political Islam in bringing Islamic movements to power in the wake of the Arab Spring, this transformation poses challenges for Muslims seeking the truth about the claims that Islamic statehood promises bliss and salvation to the populace. The conundrum, of course, becomes apparent in the contrast between the stature of Islamic Empire in the seventh and eighth centuries, and the less-than-stellar performance of attempts to establish Islamic states in the modern era.

Essentially, two questions present themselves here: first, given that God is omnipotent and will undoubtedly not keep his benevolence from his true followers, how is it that the countries that seek to impose a model of Islamic statehood in the modern era are consistently ranked lower in development indicators than their Western counterparts? 

And, second, when one thinks of the achievements of the Islamic Empire, did that success rest more on being Islamic, or on having an effective and functional state that was the most advanced in its time?

As it turns out, these two questions depend on the perception of the relationship between the Islamic belief system (including its moral underpinnings) and the effective functioning of a state. More specifically, they demand a clearer assessment of the role of the state in enforcing moral conduct as one of its core functions, especially with regard to ensuring well-being for its citizens.

To be sure, there should be a complementary relationship between the state and religious authorities in promoting (and enforcing) certain behavior among the populace. It is, however, the consistent demand by the leaders of political Islam for a state-centric model of enforcing religious beliefs that is being disputed here. Besides the fact that Muslim countries are, by and large, endowed with limited budgetary resources with which to face up to the large and increasingly complex challenges that confront them, this state-centric model of religious enforcement has paradoxically shifted the discourse in the religious centers from focusing on explaining religious values to explaining instead the importance in winning political battles against the liberal “infidels” to impose Islamic law by force.

As for the vilification of the Western model of statehood, it is not entirely clear where the basis of such fervent animosity resides. On the face of it, this model proposes democratically elected executive and legislative branches and an independent judiciary co-existing in an effective balance of power, governed by a constitution that also outlines the rights and freedoms of its citizens. In fact, it may be argued that this “Western” model of statehood conforms more closely to Islamic jurisprudence than the one on offer by some of the states in the Muslim world (for example, responsive leaders, effective judicial system, greater welfare, and so on).

Bearing this in mind, aspirations for the revival of the Islamic empire through the imposition of moral conduct using the powers of the state are misplaced. Instead, a more pragmatic approach is better, whereby religious authorities concentrate on their God-given opportunity to lead the Muslim populace on the path established by divine guidance. The state, for its part, should concentrate on the well-being of its citizens (all of them equally, no matter their gender or religion) in the most effective and efficient manner possible. With that, the Western models of statehood may not be so un-Islamic after all.

Sherif Ayoub is a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University's Department of Government. Prior to that, he was a researcher at Columbia University and the University of Edinburgh, and has worked with the World Bank and United Nations Development Program


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The Shi'ite Crescent Holds its Ground

by Yaakov Lappin

Developments in Syria are unfolding quickly, as the country's civil war takes new twists and turns every week, and the impact of the conflict on the Middle East (and beyond) is growing.

After two years of fighting and at least 80,000 casualties, it is possible to conclude that the Syrian civil war has degenerated into a long-term, regional, sectarian Sunni-Shi'ite conflict which has crossed into neighboring Lebanon and Iraq and threatens to spill over into Turkey, Jordan and Israel. No resolution to this feud is in sight.

Inside Syria, Syrian President Basher Assad's Allawite regime defied the predictions of many observers and held firm against the Sunni rebels seeking his overthrow.

In fact, Assad has begun to make gains against the rebels.

This is possible due to the growing presence of highly trained Shi'ite Hizballah battalions that, under Iranian orders, have mobilized from their bases in Lebanon and crossed into Syria to offer vital battlefield assistance to the Syrian regime's strained army.

This situation has sparked outrage across the Sunni world, and prompted Sunni religious and political figures to issue call for jihad against Hizballah, on behalf of the beleaguered Syrian rebels.

Assad hails from Syria's Allawite minority, and the Allawite sect is an offshoot of Shia Islam, the center of which is Iran.

For Iran, Assad remains its only state ally and strategic partner in the Middle East. Syria's strategic value for Iran is paramount, especially at a time when the region is awash with Sunni Islamist elements who view Iran and its Shi'ite satellites as threats and heretics.

Hizballah's deep involvement in Syria is stretching sectarian tensions in neighboring Lebanon to breaking point. Non-Shi'ite Lebanese leaders are openly describing Hizballah as a foreign Iranian entity. Such direct, public criticism was rare before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, and indicates the collapse of Hizballah's credibility and image among Sunnis.

In retaliation, Syrian rebels have begun firing rockets from Syria at Shi'te areas in northern Lebanon that are Hizballah strongholds.

Additionally, Lebanese Sunni gunmen fired rockets at Hizballah's Dahiya district in south Beirut.

The northern Lebanese city of Tripoli is racked with gun battles between Sunni militias and armed Allawite elements loyal to Assad. The potential for a further spillover of Syria's civil war into Lebanon has risen.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar continue to fund and arm the rebels, while Turkey is providing them with territory to establish safe bases outside of the fighting zones in Syria.

Turkey and Qatar are keeping supply lines open to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated rebels in Syria, while Saudi Arabia is providing support for the Salafi-jihadi fighters there.

Israel wants to avoid being dragged into the volatile events developing north of its borders.

From a strategic perspective, because of its role as a backbone in the Tehran-Damascus-Hizballah axis, the Syrian regime poses a far greater threat to Israel than the Sunni rebels.

The Sunni Islamist elements fighting against Assad are lightly armed and poorly organized. The more radical rebel elements could create limited security problems, which the Israel Defense Forces should be able to contain.

Assad's fall would weaken Iran, Israel's foremost foe, and damage Hizballah, the largest terror entity in the Middle East, which has 80,000 rockets and missiles pointed at Israeli civilians. Hence, from an Israeli perspective, the threats stemming from Assad's survival outweigh those posed by extremist groups among Sunni rebels, like Jabhat Al-Nusra.

Either way, the turmoil in Syria has made it more likely that pinpoint security incidents will end up setting off larger confrontations that could drag Israel into the picture.

One such threat is the transit of Iranian and Syrian weapons to Hizballah, a development Israel has made clear it would not accept.

Israel Observes as Sunnis Rage

Iran is supplying Syria with weapons and military advisers from its Revolutionary Guards Corps to help Assad gain victories over the rebels.

For the time being, Iran has successfully safeguarded its 'Shi'ite crescent,' a continuous chain of territories under its influence.

The crescent begins in Iran, stretches over Iraq (which has a majority Shi'ite population, an Iran-friendly government, and pro-Iranian militias), and passes through Syria. It ends on Israel's border, in southern Lebanon, where Hizballah maintains a heavily armed Iran-sponsored state-within-a-state among the Shi'ite population there.

According to Israeli intelligence estimates, Assad's regime controls roughly 40 percent of Syrian territory. That number is set to grow following the retaking of the strategic town of Qusayr, which occurred due to Hizballah's assistance.

Qusayr is a strategic location for both sides in the civil war. For the Syrian regime, it links Damascus to the Allawite heartland on Syria's Mediterranean coast. The Allawite population center is Assad's main base of support, and could one day form an Allawite enclave if Syria splits into mini-states. For the rebels, the Qusayr area, close to Lebanon, served as a transit point for arms and fighters.

Buoyed by the victory at Qusayr, the Syrian regime is now turning its sights to retaking the northern city of Aleppo. The reinvigorated regime also took the bold step of sending its tanks to the Syrian Golan, near the Israeli border, to retake the region from the rebels, and seizing the border town of Quneitra.

This is a dangerous move, as it violates the ceasefire agreement with Israel, and places heavy Syrian armor a stone's throw from the IDF. Israel reportedly warned Syria against this move, and Damascus replied by saying that the tanks were only there to fight rebels. Israel will be watching that development closely.

Iran's decision to send Hizballah into Syria was a key factor in turning the civil war back to Assad's favor.

With its forces now spreading out over Syria, Hizballah's influence – and potential confrontation zone with Israel – has grown.

"People have to understand that Hizballah is now a regional party," one of its fighters said in an interview with Lebanese news site NOW.

Israel has monitored these developments closely from the sidelines. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon recently formulated the causes that would force Jerusalem to end its observer status and become involved in Syria.

"We are not getting involved in the civil war so long as our interests are not harmed, and so long as there is no attempt to transfer precise weapons, mainly by Hizballah, or an attempt to take control of chemical weapons or heating up the border and firing on our territory," Ya'alon said, in comments made public by the Defense Ministry.

Ya'alon noted that there were instances of attacks by the Syrian army on IDF positions on the Golan Heights, but added that the policy on returning fire was crystal clear: "As soon as our forces are fired on they are supposed to silence the source of fire." The IDF did this last month, and has since not been challenged by the Syrian army.

By contrast, the Sunni Muslim world has reacted largely with fury to the Shi'ite crescent's recent moves.

"How could 100 million Shiites (worldwide) defeat 1.7 billion (Sunnis)? Only because (Sunni) Muslims are weak," said leading Muslim Brotherhood cleric Sheikh Yussuf al-Qaradawi.

Describing Hizballah as "the party of Satan," Qaradawi called on able-bodied Sunnis to flood Syria and fight a jihad against it and the Syrian regime. "Every Muslim trained to fight and capable of doing that (must) make himself available," he said. .

"Iran is pushing forward arms and men (to back the Syrian regime), so why do we stand idle?"

An Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood member said his organization can send 12,000 men to fight Hizballah in Syria, according to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). The Institute also cited religious scholars attending a Doha conference as calling for the "gates of jihad" to be opened "to liberate Syria from the Assad regime."

Hamas is in a particularly uncomfortable bind. Originally an ally of Assad, and once the proud recipient of Iranian aid, Hamas has abandoned the Syrian regime and fallen in line with its Muslim Brotherhood colleagues in Egypt in supporting the Sunni rebels.

This has cost Hamas dearly in Iranian financial support, with Iran cutting its aid program for Hamas in Gaza by $23 million a month.

East of Syria, the sectarian conflict has spilled over into Iraq. Nearly 2,000 Iraqis were killed in April and May in sectarian bombings and shootings alone. The upsurge in violence in Iraq – the worst since the 2006-07 sectarian strife – is a result of fresh Iraqi wounds being reopened by events in Syria. Sunnis in Iraq are feeling discriminated against and resentful of the Shi'ite Al-Maliki government in Baghdad, and are emboldened by the uprising launched by their fellow Sunnis in Syria. Al-Qaida-affiliated Sunni groups in Iraq, most notably the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), has set up fighting cells in Syria too, and is carrying out active combat and jihad missions in both states.

The Sunni and Shi'ite nature of the Syrian conflict is likely to keep the main players and their backers engaged with one another for years to come.


As the conflict draws on, its most defining features are volatility and unpredictability. The battle has turned in Assad's favor now, but the rebels could rebound later.

And Western intervention remains possible if localized use of chemical weapons by the regime reoccurs. Russia, an Assad supporter, virulently opposes such an escalation, meaning this regional conflict could turn into a global showdown between Washington and Moscow.

In addition, Syria has what is probably the world's largest arsenal of Sarin mustard gas compounds and VX nerve agents, making the situation even more volatile.

Some 1.6 million Syrian refugees have fled their homeland, resettling in neighboring countries which are unequipped to care for them, and upsetting the demographic balance in places such as Lebanon.

Just south of the chaos, Israel is preparing itself for all scenarios, based on the understanding that a flexible military is best suited for dealing with an environment which is changing faster than ever before.

The Shi'ite crescent has proven its willingness and ability to safeguard Assad's regime, and those who were quick to eulogize the Syrian leader now know that when it comes to the Syrian civil war, prophecies are worthless.

Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post's military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books), which proposes that jihadis on the internet have established a virtual Islamist state.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Two Faces of Islam

by Paul Austin Murphy

Muslims kill and persecute non-Muslims on a massive and systematic scale in Muslim countries. Yet in the U.S. many Muslims take part in ecumenism and talk of 'tolerance' and whatnot. But what if it's all one big deceit on their part? What if U.S. and European Muslims only talk about 'mutual respect' and practice ecumenism because they are a minority? What if they say these things, and practice ecumenism, simply to advance and/or protect Muslims and Islam itself. What if they also use interfaith as a simple means of Islamic dawah (proselytizing)? 

What I say isn't simple conspiracy theory because many Muslims have more or less admitted this. They have talked about never turning down an opportunity (at interfaith meetings and events) to tell non-Muslims how superior Islam is.

If all this is indeed the case, then that vast difference and dissonance between how Muslims (on the whole) behave in the West and how Muslims behave in Muslim/Islamic countries will make sense. Moreover, the facts about persecution which follow will not come as a surprise; especially if readers have so far placed these facts against the smiling faces of the Muslims they have met or seen at interfaith events or in the pages of Leftist/Liberal newspapers.

Fact: the killing of Christians is on the rise in Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria, and Egypt. This is according to various human rights groups. The Vatican has also said that 100,000 Christians are being killed each year.

One organization and website, Persecution.Org, says that about 200 million Christians currently live under persecution, particularly in countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Nigeria. The organization also said that the first major killing sprees happened between 1998 and 2003, when 10,000 Christians were murdered in Indonesia alone. (Indonesia is often said to be a 'moderate' Muslim country.)

This group added that the persecution of Christians has also been on the rise in places such as Africa and the Middle East over the last decade.

A Vatican spokesman, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomassi, has also said that research has revealed that an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are killed on an yearly basis in the Muslim world.

Tomassi also said that Christians are subjected to forced displacement, destruction of their places of worship, rape, and the abduction of their leaders.

Pakistan is a particularly bad case; which is very ironic because there are over a million Muslims of Pakistani heritage who live in the UK. For example, there was a series of attacks on Christians living in Pakistan. One such case occurred in March this year when Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, where more than 100 houses were burned to the ground.

The United States Government has deemed to note all this. The State Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Jane Zimmerman, said that numerous cases in recent years have involved Christians being attacked or killed on account of their religious beliefs. But there may be a big problem with this insubstantial recognition of what's going on in the Muslim world. For a start, Barack Obama says that there is 'no such thing as "Islamic terrorism". What if he also says, or believes, that there is no such thing as Islamic persecution either? (This parallels the problem in the UK in which none of the authorities see our big problem of the sexual grooming of young girls as a problem specifically and overwhelmingly with Muslim gangs.)

But it's not all Obama's fault. The U.S. and Western media generally tends to describe this Muslim persecution of non-Muslims as 'sectarian strife'. Calling what happens in Pakistan, the Sudan, and even Egypt (regarding the Copts) 'sectarian strife' is almost as bad as saying there was 'sectarian strife' between the Jews and Germans/Nazis in 1930s and 1940s Germany.

But, again, why this huge anomaly between how Muslims act -- on the whole, that is -- in the U.S. (as well as in Europe and the UK), and how they act in virtually every Muslim country? 

Of course most members a minority religion will talk about tolerance and ecumenism while a minority. But when Muslims are the majority, they tend to kill and persecute as they systematically do today throughout the world.

All this is best explained by 'the example of the Prophet himself. 

Ever wondered about those nice and tolerant passages, from the Koran, which Muslims often quote at you? You know; the passages which certainly don't need to be 'taken in context' or 'interpreted'. (Only the violent, nasty and hateful passages, which are far more numerous, need to be seen 'in context' or be 'interpreted'.) These passages were all spoken or written when Muhammad and his fellow Muslims were a weak minority in Arabia. Thus they had to use Islamic taqiyya about 'ecumenism' (though obviously that word wasn't used at that time) and tolerance. Such sweet words were required for simple reasons of survival.

Nevertheless, when Muhammad and his followers gained the requisite power and numbers, all that lovey-dovey stuff changed almost overnight. Then the Islamic killing spree began. It has continued ever since. That's a killing spree of around 1,400 years; with, of course, a few intermissions in certain places and at certain times (which Interfaith Muslims overstress whenever they can).

Not only all that. All Muslims know that those early nice and peaceful passages in the Koran were all 'abrogated' (rejected and then substituted) precisely because they were a product of Muslim weakness. Nonetheless, don't expect Muslims to tell you this at interfaith meetings or in the pages of the Guardian. Why not? It's because Islamic taqiyya is also something many Muslims practice simply because Muhammad frequently practiced it. Indeed the Koran says that Allah himself is 'the greatest deceiver'. 

So it's all there for people to see. You can see it in the Koran; in the history of Islam; in the life of Muhammad; and, indeed, in what Muslims are doing to non-Muslims throughout the world today. If only Western Leftists and Liberals would look and these facts and realities instead of playing obscene and foolish games with the American and European people and indeed with Muslims themselves.

Paul Austin Murphy


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Syria: The Next Libya?

by Matthew Vadum


The Obama administration has finally officially acknowledged that the Syrian government has used illegal chemical weapons in its bloody civil war half a year after reports first surfaced, which opens the door to U.S. involvement in the conflict.

After months of heel-dragging, the administration admits Syria crossed the much-vaunted “red line” President Obama laid down for U.S. action in that regime’s two year war against opposition forces. Obama said last summer that if Syria used chemical weapons such an action would be a “game-changer” for the United States. Despite reports that the Assad regime has done precisely that, Obama has been taking his sweet time making an official finding.

But yesterday Ben Rhodes, a young White House speechwriter who works as the White House’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said “the president has made his decision.”

Rhodes, for what it’s worth, may be responsible for concocting the official lies about last September’s deadly terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Rhodes said U.S. intelligence reports indicate Hezbollah-backed Syria has used sarin and various chemical weapons “on a small scale” against multiple rebel targets on at least four occasions over the past year. The death toll from such attacks could be 150 or higher, he said. The United Nations says 92,000 have died in the civil war so far.

“Suffice it to say that decision has been made about providing additional direct support to the [opposition Supreme Military Council] to strengthen their effectiveness,” Rhodes said. “This is more a situation where we’re just not going to be able to lay out an inventory of what exactly falls under the scope of that assistance other than to communicate that we have made that decision.”

Sending Americans troops to wade into the Middle Eastern conflict is off the table right now but administration officials say the U.S. will soon augment the “scope and scale” of its military aid to the largely jihadist opponents of Syria’s brutal president Bashar Assad.

The Obama administration says it hasn’t decided if the U.S. will support a proposed “no-fly” zone over Syria. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are both pressing for a no-fly zone.

It is suspected that the Syrian opposition will not last much longer absent external assistance. Earlier this month, in Syria the town of Qusair was taken by forces loyal to the Assad regime. Qusair is strategically important because it links the capital city of Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea on which ports and a Russian naval base are located.

As Charles Krauthammer noted, the capture of Qusair with the assistance of the pro-Iranian terrorist group Hezbollah frees up Assad’s resources, allowing him to “advance on rebel-dominated areas in central and northern Syria, including Aleppo.”

“For the rebels, it’s a devastating loss of territory, morale and their supply corridor to Lebanon,” Krauthammer writes. “No one knows if this reversal of fortune will be the last, but everyone knows that Assad now has the upper hand.”

Obama’s decision comes a month after Secretary of State John Kerry surreptitiously gave Egypt $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, rewarding that country’s Islamofascist dictatorship for its increasingly vicious assaults on foreign workers, religious minorities, and civil society.

Kerry authorized aid to the authoritarian anti-American regime despite finding in a May 9 memo that “we are not satisfied with the extent of Egypt’s progress and are pressing for a more inclusive democratic process and the strengthening of key democratic institutions.”

In order for the aid to flow U.S. law requires the secretary of state to certify that the Egyptian government “is supporting the transition to civilian government, including holding free and fair elections, implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion, and due process of law.”

This U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance to Egypt could easily find its way into the conflict in Syria, just as U.S. aid to anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya is no doubt now being used against American interests in the Arab world.

Khaled al-Qazzaz, a foreign affairs adviser to Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, said Egyptians are free to join the war in nearby Syria. Sunni Muslim clerics in Egypt are urging their followers to get involved in the armed struggle by helping anti-Assad rebels.

Al-Qazzaz said that “the right of travel or freedom of travel is open for all Egyptians.”

Egypt will not prosecute its citizens for fighting in Syria, he said. “We are no longer a center for rendition, or punishing Egyptians for what they do in other countries.”

Al-Qazzaz said he’s not worried at the prospect of greater involvement by foreign jihadists in Syria.

“We don’t consider them a threat,” al-Qazzaz said. “We have a controllable situation in Sinai … We do not have a situation of returning jihadists.”

These bland assurances, of course, are similar to what the Obama administration said as it armed jihadists in the effort to topple Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi. Despite hopes for a new secular liberal status quo in Libya, the Qaddafi regime was replaced by an Islamist government friendly to Islamic radicalism, which only continues to grow in the country. Like in Libya, America may find that our intervention on behalf of similar extremists in Syria will come with deadly consequences.

Matthew Vadum


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Justice for Jews from Arab Countries

by David M. Weinberg

Last month, Ottawa once again took the international lead in raising an issue important to Israel and Middle East peace. The Harper government initiated hearings on the matter of Jewish refugees from Arab countries in the Canadian parliament.

The hearings are part of a new push by Jewish groups (including Canada’s Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which I represent in Israel, and the World Jewish Congress) to highlight the plight of the Jewish refugees in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The issue is important because it highlights the justice of Israel as the legitimate expression of an indigenous Middle Eastern people.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development that Canada should officially recognize the persecution and displacement of over 850,000 Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. “Much of the Arab-Israeli peace process is about validation, of the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state and the recognition of the Palestinians as a people,” he said. “Redress for Jews displaced from Arab countries is another example of this, and needs to be included for true and lasting peace to be achieved.”

Fogel noted that “Achieving peace in the Middle East is not a zero-sum game. The rights and claims of one group need not come at the expense of or displace those of the other. And thus, the purpose of incorporating the historic claims of Jewish refugees from Arab countries is not to diminish or compete with the claims of Palestinian refugees. The inclusion of the issue of Jewish refugees is meant to complete, not revise, the historical record.”

As gavel-holder of the multilateral refugee working group (a moribund product of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference), Canada is uniquely placed to raise the profile of the Jewish refugee issue and to ensure that it is given the fair consideration it merits.

The initiative in Canada needs to be repeated everywhere. In fact, there is a bill pending introduction in the US Congress which will require the State Department to report annually on what it has done to advance the Jewish refugee issue. 

Why is this issue so important? Because it establishes that Israel is not a “foreign implant” in the Middle East; that Israel is not a mere by-product of the Nazi Holocaust and of European war guilt. Rather, some 50 percent of the Jewish citizenry of today’s Israel descends from Jewish refugees from Arab countries; Jews who lived in Middle East communities that stretch back 3,000 years. 

As such, modern Israel is the legitimate expression of the self-determination of an oppressed, indigenous, Middle Eastern people. Israel is the nation-state of Jews from Arab countries with a long history in the Middle East; of Middle East Jews who were ethnically-cleansed from Arab countries in the twentieth century, both prior to and mostly after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

This levels the playing field in international debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It makes it clear that Israel deserves and demands justice just as much as the Palestinians do, if not more so.

Note this as well: The differences in the two refugee experiences could not be starker. Unlike Palestinian refugees who fled war, Jewish refugees fled systematic persecution. Unlike Palestinian refugees who for seven decades cynically have been kept in deprivation and isolation by their Arab brothers, Jewish refugees have been welcomed and were successfully absorbed by their brethren (mainly in Israel, but also in Diaspora Jewish communities). Unlike Palestinian refugees, the narrative of Jewish refugees has all but been ignored. 

That Jews displaced from Arab countries were indeed bona fide refugees, under international law, is beyond question. This was recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1957 and 1967. An international committee of legal experts, co-chaired by Prof. Irwin Cotler and David Matas, produced an unassailable report which documents strong political and legal arguments for the legitimate rights of Jews displaced from Arab countries. And Stanley A. Urman, executive director of Justice For Jews From Arab Countries, wrote a Ph.D. thesisdocumenting the U.N.’s differential treatment of Arab and Jewish Middle East refugees. 

There is no reason for any person involved in Middle Eastern affairs to be unaware of this important issue, and no excuse for the fact that to-date few pro-Israel activists have made this an important part of their advocacy. (Judy Feld Carr, the heroine who almost single-handedly smuggled Syrian Jewry out Syria, is a laudable exception. In the 70s and 80s she ran a Canadian Jewish Congress effort on this matter, and was a founding member of the now-defunct World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries).

It is high time for us all to get educated. There is an excellent educational unitproduced by Justice For Jews From Arab Countries available to teach students about the history, heritage and subsequent plight and flight of Jews from Arab countries. There are good resources online also from Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa(JIMENA), and a blog called "Point of No Return."

Key books on the topic are "Forgotten Millions: The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands," by Malka Hillel Shulewitz (Bloomsbury Academic); "The Case of the Jews From Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue," by Maurice M. Roumani (WOJAC); "In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands," by Martin Gilbert (Yale); "The Jews of Islam," by Bernard Lewis (Princeton); and two JPS books by Norman A. Stillman: "Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book," and "The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times."

The State of Israel has been slow to recognize the importance of this issue. Only last fall, Israel's then-deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, launched the “I am a Refugee” campaign in a bid to create parity between the struggle of Jewish and Palestinian refugees. The Israeli Ministry for Senior Citizens is currently running a radio campaign to collect testimonies and claims from Arab-born Jews. A bill has been tabled in the Knesset by Likud-Beiteinu MK Shimon Ohayon to set November 30 as the Memorial Day for Jewish Refugees from Arab countries. And only last week, Sir Martin Gilbert's book, "In Ishmael's House," was released in Israel in its Hebrew translation.

It is important to note that this initiative is not about money, nor about launching legal proceedings to seek compensation. It is about rights and recognition -- that Jews were victimized and became refugees; and about equality -- that the international community must recognize equal rights for all Middle East refugees. 

As Prof. Cotler says: "In the absence of truth and justice, there can be no reconciliation. And without reconciliation, there can be no just, lasting peace between all peoples of the region."

David M. Weinberg


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Obama’s Multiplying Foreign Policy Failures

by Peter Wehner

On April 23, 2007, then-Senator and future presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a speech in which he said this:

Until we change our approach in Iraq, it will be increasingly difficult to refocus our efforts on the challenges in the wider region – on the conflict in the Middle East, where Hamas and Hezbollah feel emboldened and Israel’s prospects for a secure peace seem uncertain; on Iran, which has been strengthened by the war in Iraq; and on Afghanistan, where more American forces are needed to battle al Qaeda, track down Osama bin Laden, and stop that country from backsliding toward instability… Now it’s our moment to lead – our generation’s time to tell another great American story. So someday we can tell our children that this was the time when we helped forge peace in the Middle East.

It hasn’t quite turned out that way, has it?

Just yesterday the Obama administration admitted what our allies have long said – that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against opposition forces. At least 80,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, there are almost 1.5 million refugees, and the number of internally displaced persons has rise to more than four million. (Tony Blair discusses Syria in this op-ed.) Moreover, as the Washington Post reports 

As fighters with Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement wage the battles that are helping Syria’s regime survive, their chief sponsor, Iran, is emerging as the biggest victor in the wider regional struggle for influence that the Syrian conflict has become… after the Assad regime’s capture of the small but strategic town of Qusair last week — a battle in which the Iranian-backed Shiite militia played a pivotal role — Iran’s supporters and foes alike are mulling a new reality: that the regional balance of power appears to be tilting in favor of Tehran, with potentially profound implications for a Middle East still grappling with the upheaval wrought by the Arab Spring revolts.

That’s not all.

The Syrian civil war is badly destabilizing our most reliable Arab ally, Jordan. Lebanon is increasingly fragile. In Egypt and across North Africa the Muslim Brotherhood has gained power. Since Mr. Obama withdrew American forces in Iraq, sectarian violence has markedly increased there, with the hard-won gains from the Bush administration’s surge being washed away. The war in Afghanistan is going poorly, while relations with the Karzai regime are quite bad, limiting American leverage in that nation (our much-trumped retreat of forces from Afghanistan have of course limited our leverage as well). Turkey is struggling to contain a political crisis that has threatened the nation’s economy and paralyzed the government. There are no prospects for genuine peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. The Libyan people are weary of two years of militia violence that has kept the country in chaos and stalled reform, with the government weak and unstable. And al Qaeda is ascendant in North Africa.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

My point in running through this parade of horribles isn’t to blame President Obama for every one of them. That would be silly. But it would be just as silly to pretend that Mr. Obama isn’t responsible for much, and in some cases most, of the multiplying failures we’re seeing sweep the world.

This much is clear: The president’s policies have, by almost every objective measure, failed. And they have failed by his own standards, his own promises, and his own words. What he said would happen has not; and the things he complained about have gotten worse. His incompetence in international affairs is staggering; and in some of these circumstances it will take years, in some cases decades, and in some cases generations to undo the damage, if we ever do.

What Barack Obama must know, at least in his quiet, private moments, is that conducting foreign policy turned out to be a lot harder than critiquing someone else’s foreign policy. That words aren’t substitutes for actions. That preening arrogance and empty threats don’t actually shape events on the ground. And that there is a high human cost to ineptitude.

After eight years the damage of the Obama legacy will be extraordinary. But the damage may be most acute in foreign policy, where events are continuing to spin out of control and our commander-in-chief doesn’t have any idea how to stop it.

This is not what America’s “moment to lead” and its “new beginning” was supposed to look like. 

Peter Wehner


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.